Judging by the e-mails I have received, telephone conversations, Twitter and Facebook postings, Blacks are shell shocked after Tuesday’s midterm elections. Even President Obama appeared beaten down at his press conference yesterday, looking despondent over the results of an election that gave Republicans the majority in the House of Representatives. The somber mood is enough for anybody to simply surrender and throw in the towel. Yet, I am perplexed why so many of us thought this would be easy. True change never is. We all knew the election of the first Black President would stir a backlash as we have never seen, but too many of us were “caught up” in the euphoria of November 2008 and missed the larger point. Elections are a means to an end, not the end.
There are some real lessons to be gleaned from Tuesday’s election: some old, some new. We are bound to remain a marginal force in American politics if we do not take to heart what is transpiring on our national landscape. It is not that we did not turn out to vote on Tuesday. In fact, I believe the final analysis of voting will show that we did our fair share and in some instances may have been instrumental in Democratic victories. What we fail to recognize is our strategic deficit in the planning and managing of social change. So much energy and political capital was invested in an Obama defense that we forgot to play offense. For those of us outside the Beltway our time would be best spent not “hailing the chief,” but building the army to fight the larger war; excuse my military metaphor.
So, what are the lessons from Tuesday? Here are a few.
Democrats and left leaning voters need to stop apologizing for supporting progressive public policy. Conservatives only apologize for not digging the knife in deeper. George W. Bush has not apologized for committing the country to two budget-busting wars, the debacle of the Katrina response and allowing Wall Street to run wild. Ronald Reagan made a mockery of civil rights and Richard Nixon trampled on the Constitution, yet there was hardly a sense of true contrition from both men. Democrats need to get a spine.
Do not let the defeat of a few wealthy Republican candidates in California and Connecticut fool you. Money matters in politics. Wealthy conservatives have spent decades creating a well-oiled machine of think tanks, media organizations, “journalists,” and candidates to shift the political paradigm in this country. Meanwhile, the left plays it safe and refuses to engage in advocacy. Part of the reason is because race factors into philanthropy in progressive circles. For Blacks, it is time we acknowledged the damage inflicted upon us by conspicuous consumption. It is not that we do not have the financial means to achieve economic and political empowerment. We are just too mired in debt and consumerism. Please do not get me started on wealthy African Americans - too busy playing “Lifestyles of the Rich and Clueless.”
When the “News” Corporation nakedly invests in Republican Party politics, understand the media game has changed. If you caught the Fox News Channel’s Obama bashing election night coverage, it should have felt like a splash of cold water on your face. Damn it - wake up! Media matters. Can we finally have a real conversation on why we can no longer afford to allow BET and TV One to give us short shrift in the news department? It is the reason we have struggled to keep NorthStar News afloat. Perspective matters in media. It is also time we returned to the Black press. Though short on resources, if we return to supporting Black newspapers at least, if we also support the Black blogosphere/web and forced sanity upon the two cable news channels, we could begin to level the communications playing field. By the way, if you read the New York Post and go pay to see a movie released by Twentieth Century Fox, you are feeding the conservative media beast.
Define our Politics, Not our Friends
If some Democrats sounded a lot like Republicans, understand why. Black votes have become a sure thing for Democrats and a non-starter for Republicans. There is no reciprocity for our support of the Democratic Party because we have made ourselves expendable. In many ways, our indentured status is a security blanket for so-called white progressives. There is no fear on the part of the Republican Party because we yell at them but do not organize against them. We have well defined friends and enemies, but have done little to define and declare our interests. It is time we articulated our priorities and then moved to create whatever coalition is necessary to achieve them.
After you win, you work
Know that after Barack Obama won the presidency on November 4, 2008, conservatives worked every day to plot his downfall. It is what happens after an election, and between elections, that matters in American politics. The White House forgot this lesson too. While the champagne was still flowing during the inauguration festivities, there were groups of conservatives laying out the political strategy to undermine the Obama presidency and lining up the financial resources to execute the plan. We win elections and lose the larger war.
See what Brown can do
Do you know what really scares most of those Tea Partiers and conservative Republicans on the Hill? It is the browning of America. They see the shifting demographics and know the numbers that come out of the 2010 Census will further confirm the coming end of white majority rule in America. It is no wonder why immigrants are under attack. It is the reason why they have made Islam a dirty word. It is why a Black President has been cast as evil and a foreigner. Blacks and Latinos need to wake up and realize we need each other. Yes, we are not always on the same page politically and are not monolithic but we have more to gain working together than allowing differences to divide us. The conversation has to start in communities and not among elites. The sooner, the better.
Walter Fields is Executve Editor of NorthStarNews.com.